Heads up!—Garmin transitions from Nuvi to new cars.

Sure, everybody’s smart phone does turn-by-turn voice navigation these days, but as the personal GPS navigation device market is winding down, don’t sell your Garmin stock just yet. The company got its start in avionics and today provides the all-glass cockpits for many private jets and marine applications. The aviation industry requirement for extreme quality control led the company to vertically integrate the manufacture of all its products, including its automotive applications.

Speaking of which, Garmin is expanding its navigation hardware and software into full-vehicle turn-key infotainment systems provided to original-equipment manufacturers. The first application to hit the market was in the new-for-2011 Chrysler 300/Dodge Charger, and in its very first year those models topped the JDPower customer satisfaction index for factory installed navigation systems. Apparently customers were either familiar enough with the user interface before buying the new car or they found it easier to learn than most competing OE manufacturer systems. Mercedes-Benz will reportedly begin transitioning to Garmin navigation this year, and Suzuki and other off-shore brands are moving to Garmin as well.

This mountainously monikered K2 architecture is designed to drive multiple display screens (including head-up displays), over CAN, MOST, or whatever network setup a manufacturer selects using an internet connection provided by a brought-in smart phone or a built-in 4G modem. The typical Garmin touch-screen control is generally provided, but iDrive, COMAND, or other HMI gizmos can control it as well. The audio preset buttons incorporate infrared proximity sensors so that when your finger approaches the buttons, the display brings up the station info corresponding to each preset button.

Simple voice-commands like navigation entry, temperature controls, etc. are handled by on-board voice recognition, while more conversational Siri-type requests (“What’s the weather going to be on Friday?”) are processed in the cloud. Real-time traffic, parking, sports scores, news, weather, etc. can be provided either via the manufacturer’s suppliers or via Garmin Smartphone Link. There is no current connection to social traffic crowdsourcing apps like Waze, but adding that functionality is easily accomplished. Text and email messages can be read aloud and responded to via voice, and when connected to a smartphone’s calendar, the navigation system can detect when you’re going to be late for an appointment and offer to send an automatic message to the organizer with an estimated time of arrival. Cool

Meanwhile, the Nuvi lineup of portable nav systems soldiers on (I still love using mine as an accurate speedometer and arrival-time estimator when driving my old cars), with a cool new head-up display unit entering the market this summer. The projector mounts on the dash and connects via Bluetooth to a smartphone running Garmin StreetPilot or NAVIGON apps to project turn-by-turn navigation and other information either onto a film you apply to the windshield, or onto a clear screen. The price? An amazingly low $129.99.

First published on blogs.motortrend.com.

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